Spinning out

Graham Richards, former head of chemistry at Oxford (‘the largest chemistry department in the western world’, don’t forget), has a new book out, and is interviewed in the Guardian here.

He’s a computational chemist – and has been since computers were the size of rooms – and has spun out two pretty succesful companies, Isis Innovation and Oxford Molecular (now part of Accelrys). The interview is an interesting read, and touches on the trouble with funding bodies, venture capitalists and the higher education boom in the UK in the 1960s.

On my travels last year I particuarly enjoyed talking to academics about how different universities exploit their research. The Weizmann Institute impressed me the most: the head of chemistry, Yehiam Prior told me that about 1/3 of their funding comes from exploiting their intellectual property – and they’ve been doing it for about 30 years. And I think the academics themselves get to keep about 50% of the cash, with the remaining 50% going straight to the department – the Institute overall doesn’t see a shekel.

Spotters badge to Dan Cressey at The Great Beyond.


Neil Withers (Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)